What is Pain?
The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience arising from actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage”. Since it is always unpleasant, it is an emotional experience as well.
Though the organization includes tissue damage in its definition, pain can be experienced by an individual without the presence of tissue damage, and it is treated accordingly. Pain is always subjectively assessed and is accepted as pain if the patient reports the sensation as pain regardless of whether it is pathophysiological or psychological in nature. In fact, Margo McCaffery RN defined pain - in what has been widely used in Nursing since 1968- as “Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he says it does.”
Pain is a unique and private sensation that varies from person to person. It holds the distinction of being the most common reason a person seeks medical attention.
Two basic types of pain;
Acute Pain usually results from something specific like illness, inflammation, surgery or injury to the tissues. It is often severe and temporary, lasting a short time no longer than three months. The patient may experience anxiety and/or emotional distress along with the pain. The underlying cause of acute pain can usually be diagnosed and treated so it often disappears once the condition precipitating the pain is treated and healed.
Chronic Pain is a persistent pain that is constant for more than three months and continues way past normal healing time. The pain may be mild, moderate or severe and its duration may be as long as a person’s lifetime. Though often the cause of chronic pain is an underlying chronic condition such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, the cause may not always be clear or evident. What characterizes this pain is its persistence despite the fact that the injury has healed or lack of any evidence of injury or damage. As with acute pain, patients often have accompanying psychological symptoms, however it is more frequently seen with those with chronic pain. Due to its long duration, chronic pain has a detrimental effect on a person’s life, sleep and productivity.
Statistically women report acute and chronic pain more often than men do, and they tend to utilize pain-killers more frequently as well. In addition, the prevalence of many chronic pain conditions is a lot higher among women than men, at times up to 50% higher. Those chronic pain conditions include TMJ, headaches, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, IBS, and arthritis among others.
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